Peer Pressure: Top 5 Sources of Peer Pressure in University


A look at the prevalence of peer pressure in university and the most common forms that students experience.

Does Peer Pressure Really Exist in University?

Yes, like any other social environment that you will enter throughout your life, pressure to conform to certain norms and trends that the crowd around you practices is going to exist. Since university for most students takes place at a time when they are leaving adolescence and finally entering adulthood, there are various forms of peer pressure that seem to prevail in most university campuses. Below are some of the top sources of peer pressure that you will encounter in university.

Top 5 Sources of Peer Pressure in University

1. Alcohol and Drugs

Drinking has for a long time been a deeply engrained part of university culture on many campuses. For schools that are located on college towns, where most of the students are not from the area and are living away from home for the first time, university is often the time in many students lives where they first begin to experiment with alcohol and recreational drug use.

While alcohol will become increasingly common at many of the social functions that you attend in university, you should always do what makes you comfortable and participate in drinking for your own enjoyment, not because other people are pressuring you to. The same general principle applies to any drug use, although it is highly advised that you stay away from hard illegal drugs as there might be dangerous repercussions.

2. Unhealthy Eating Habits

Throughout your time in university there will likely be a great deal of pressure on you to develop unhealthy eating habits. From late night binge eating during all-nighter team projects, to munching on fast food after the bar, to ordering pizza during group study sessions, there will be ample opportunities for your peers to pressure you into eating unhealthy food and developing bad habits.

More than anything else, this form of peer pressure in university requires a tremendous amount of discipline. The most effective way to combat this problem is to develop a solid eating and exercising regimen so that the nights where your friends and classmates pressure you to eat unhealthy are outliers rather than the norm. Being on top of your academic workload and planning ahead is also a great way to avoid late night cram sessions and the possibility of unhealthy food binges every now and then.

3. Club Initiations

Many clubs and student organizations in your university may have all sorts of long-standing histories and traditions that go along with them. Fraternities in particular are notorious for their club traditions that often involve initiation ceremonies. Initiations are essentially rights of passage that signify that a person has accepted their new adopted group and is willing to become one with that organization and its customs.

The issue with certain fraternity initiations in particular, however, is that they often involve various forms of hazing. Hazing is essentially any form of initiation that involves either physical or psychological harassment. Thus if it is a prerequisite for the club you are interested in joining that you endure some form of pain or sexual humiliation, it is wise to seriously reconsider whether you want to associate yourself with a group that promotes those types of values. Always do your research before rushing to join a fraternity or sorority.

4. Skipping Class

One of the freedoms that becomes immediately apparent when stepping inside your first university lecture is that this is no longer the tightly monitored environment that you have grown up accustomed to until the end of high school. Most classes in university do not take attendance, and from attending club meetings, to waking up hungover, you will continually find more and more reasons to put off going to class.

It is best to always keep in mind what the primary purpose of going to university is, as well as to remember that either you personally or your family is literally investing ten of thousands of dollars into your education.  While all sorts of social pressures might encourage you to skip class, you should always think about your long term goals.

5. Conforming to Political Views

This form of peer pressure differs somewhat from the aforementioned points as it is more likely to come from your instructors than any of your fellow students. Nevertheless, the pressure to conform to, and to adopt various political views is prevalent in many university faculties. While there are many professors that are open minded thinkers who encourage seeing issues from multiple viewpoints, the sad reality is that many times you will discover that the instructors in various faculties often share similar worldviews.

In arts and humanities faculties that place a strong emphasis on teaching ethics and socially progressive values it is not uncommon to run across professors with strong left-wing tendencies. Meanwhile, in business faculties professors are often much more conservative and much less inclined to teach students about ethics.

While there are intelligent and thoughtful arguments to be made on any side of the political spectrum, and while some of your professors may very well be brilliant, the problem with having one particular viewpoint expressed over and over again is that it can become very dogmatic. Moreover, when it appears that all of your professors are rooting for the same side, it can create a bit of a relay effect and convince you that all educated people have one way of thinking or viewing the world. Because these people also happen to have PhDs and are standing in front of the classroom it may also appear very difficult to challenge them.

As a result, you may very well convince yourself that they are right and that your view point is less important. However, the point of higher education should always be to learn to think for yourself and question other people’s viewpoints. Therefore when you are confronted with such pressure from academics you should always question everything you are learning and stick to what you feel makes sense to you personally and not what it appears the crowd supports.

Getting Past Peer Pressure in University

Throughout your four years in university you will likely experience a great deal of growth as an individual. It is quite likely that you will conform to some of the peer pressure that you face and that your attitude on these issues will change. Above all else it is important to do what feels right for you and to refuse to take part in any activity that you wholeheartedly disagree with and might regret in the future. University, above all else, is about finding yourself and strengthening your identity as an individual.

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